Most people who burn incense do it for the scent. They find one or two that they like and burn it to enjoy the aroma. That’s certainly a valid reason to use incense. In fact, there are those who enjoy a good incense like others enjoy a good cigar. But incense has many other uses and a very long history.
Early Uses of Incense
I’m glad I took Latin in high school because I can tell you that the word incense comes from the Latin incendere which means to burn. Well, that makes sense. There is proof of the existence of incense as early as the Egyptian civilizations. They and many other civilizations used it as most people do today, to rid any household odors that may arise. The use of incense in funerals made total sense because it helped mask the odors associated with decay. But early civilizations also used it in connection to their gods and in rituals.
That particular use of incense is world wide. Many religions use incense in their rituals. From Catholicism to Buddhism, incense is used from the offering of prayers to divination to purification. The religious use of incense seems to be the most abundant with practically every religion using it in some way. The New World Encyclopedia mentions Christianity, Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, and many others. Check it out! It’s a short post!
Another widespread use of incense is while meditating and doing yoga. It is said that when we breathe we take what is outside, and bring it back out differently. So breathing incense cleanses our spirits and empowers us. While burning incense one can achieve a state of clarity and focus, as well as tranquility and calm.
In Magic, incense is used extensively. Some use it to call on Deities, while others use it to summon the dead. It is also used to clean the area being used and to keep away deplorable beings.
In aromatherapy, incense with essential oils is used because it calms and relaxes. It is meant to improve the physical and emotional well being and some people swear by its effectiveness. Practitioners of aromatherapy say that it helps with anxiety, depression, stress, and that it also helps with physical ailments. It is said it will balance the body and the mind. I have never tried aromatherapy but I do know that there are some scents that I am most comfortable with and bring me tranquility. The same applies with other scents that I dislike, in some cases causing me headaches and allergies.
The sense of smell is a very powerful thing! One whiff of something familiar will bring you right back to that place. Or, it will connect you with a person. We all remember our mother’s scent and I believe infants use it to distinguish between the people who surround them and that it is scent which makes them partial to mom! (Hey, I’m not a scientist nor have I proven this but it totally makes sense to me.)